DELAYS

Transit cargo down 50% on slowed border clearance

Malaba border is currently handling 50 trucks or less a day

In Summary

•The Malaba and Busia borders have about 800 and 500 trucks crossing everyday respectively.

•While it used to take between four hours and 24 hours, now it takes 36 hours to 48 hours to clear a truck.

Long distance trucks line up along the Amagoro-Malaba Highway as they wait to cross the border to Uganda
'HARD TIMES': Long distance trucks line up along the Amagoro-Malaba Highway as they wait to cross the border to Uganda
Image: EMOJONG OSERE

Cargo clearance into Uganda and other hinterland countries has dropped by more than 50 per cent, a survey has showed.

This has greatly affected imports and exports through the port of Mombasa.

The border surveillance by African e-logistics firm–Kobo360 shows the mandatory coronavirus testing at the Kenya-Uganda borders of Malaba and Busia has reduced clearance for truck drivers of essential goods to less than 50 per cent.

 

According to the firm, the busy Malaba border is currently handling 50 trucks or less a day with traffic stretching more than 50 kilometers on either sides.

Transport sector data shows the Malaba and Busia borders have about 800 and 500 trucks crossing every day, respectively.

“We have seen significant delays in cargo clearance. While it used to take between four hours and 24 hours, now it takes 36 hours to 48 hours,” Kobo360 Kenya Country Manager Dennis Kathurima told the Star on the telephone.

This has affected truck turn-around time between Mombasa and Kampala which has increased from an average four days to 10 days.

“Truck drivers have experienced additional fuel expenses, increased mileage per trip and even truck and cargo security, which have caused an escalation in the drivers' monthly costs,” said Kathurima.

For instance, a driver on a monthly salary of Sh10,000 requires an additional Sh1,500 per day for upkeep and between Sh1,500 and Sh2,500 for securing cargo when stagnant.

The lengthy turn around times are also leading to financial pressure on haulage firms, some of which are defaulting on loans, Kobo360 notes.

 

The firm, however, supports the mandatory testing and measures in place to curb the spread of the virus.

Five truck drivers–two Ugandan and three Kenyans, last week tested positive for the coronavirus.

There are an average 600 to 1,000 trucks along the Northern corridor every day, mainly between Mombasa and Kampala.

Uganda accounts for more than 83.2 per cent of transit cargo to the hinterland through the Port of Mombasa with an average annual transit traffic of 7.8 million tonnes.

South Sudan takes up 9.9 per cent while DR Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda account for 7.2 per cent, 3.2 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively, Kenya Port Authority data shows.

“Uganda remains our biggest transit destination,” KPA notes in its recent port performance report.

Yesterday, the Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers Association renewed its call to boycott Ugandan cargo over harassment by the Ugandan authorities and members of the public.

 Secretary-General Nicholas Mbugua, said Kenyan drivers continue to be labeled “corona” in Uganda, which has led to stigma.

“They are also denied access to food, accommodation and other basic needs. Our stand remains the same, let Ugandans come for their cargo at the border,”Mbugua said, “ We cannot allow such barbaric acts to continue.

He said there are incidences of violence where Kenyan drivers are beaten up. A rape case on a Kenyan driver was also reported a week ago, he said.

Kobo360 also observed stigmatization on its Kenya-Uganda transit route survey.

“Cases of drivers being denied access to basic amenities are high. They are even forced to carry their own supplies,” Kathurima said, noting the company has had to cancel some of its deliveries to Uganda.

The Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) has also decried harassment of drivers.

“There are a lot of frustrations. We are calling on the two governments to resolve the issues which continue to hurt trade between the two countries,” KTA chief executive Dennis Ombok said yesterday.

Meanwhile, KTA remains opposed to the Sh6,000 being charged to test drivers by Kenyan authorities.

“Truck drivers are essential service provider. We don’t know why they are being charged. The government should offer these services for free,” Ombok said.